Every year, several innovations, breakthroughs, and discoveries push the boundaries of what can be achieved using technology. The most important of these innovations and findings are those that help us solve problems and overcome challenges that impact our planet or our everyday lives. This article will explore some of the most significant inventions and breakthroughs in 2022. Additionally, We'll examine innovations in 7 fields: space, energy, health, food, robotics, quantum, and artificial intelligence.
#1 Successful Asteroid Deflection
Evaluation of data acquired by NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, indicates that the shuttle's kinetic planned collision with its target asteroid, Dimorphos, effectively changed its orbit. This marks humanity's first time deliberately altering the movement of an astronomical object and the first large-scale demonstration of asteroid deflection technology.
Before DART's collision, it took Dimorphos 11 hours and 55 minutes to orbit its bigger parent asteroid, Didymos. Since DART's planned impact with Dimorphos on Sept. 26, astronomers have been using telescopes on Earth to calculate how much that time has changed. Now, the research team has established the shuttle's collision changed Dimorphos' orbit around Didymos by 32 minutes, diminishing the 11-hour and 55-minute orbit to 11 hours and 23 minutes.
#2 The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a space telescope that conducts infrared astronomy. As the biggest optical telescope in space, its high resolution and accuracy allow it to detect objects that are old, far, or faint for the Hubble Space Telescope. This will enable investigations across numerous areas of astronomy and cosmology, such as observation of the first stars, the formation of the first galaxies, and detailed atmospheric characterization of potentially habitable exoplanets. The successful launch and deployment of the (JWST) is an engineering and operations phenomenon that cost at least $10 billion.
#3 Modular Nuclear Reactors Achieve NRC Approval
A reactor designed by Oregon-based energy company NuScale Power has become the first small modular reactor design authorized for use in the US by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), opening the way for new plants and factories that utilize the reactor. The move wasn’t exactly a surprise because the design passed its final safety evaluation in 2020, but it is a vital step toward deploying the technology in the field.
The small reactor generates safer and cheaper nuclear power and is faster to implement. The NuScale reactors will be manufactured off-site and have lower operating expenses than conventional reactors. Globally, nuclear power provides 11% electricity, down from approximately 18% in 1996. NuScale’s SMR will take up 1% of a traditional reactor's space, enabling SMRs to be stacked side-by-side and effectively reduce space while increasing generated power.
#4 Net Positive FUSION Achieved
In December 2022, the head of the Department of Energy and other federal scientific leaders reported that a fusion reaction run at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California achieved net energy, which means the reaction created more energy than was put in to initiate the reaction. This is one of the most significant achievements of humankind in the field of energy.
Fusion is how the sun produces power, but recreating a functional fusion reaction here on earth has baffled scientists for many years. Accomplishing net positive energy allows fusion to move from a lab science to a functional energy source. However, the wide-reaching commercialization of fusion could require more time and work. Moreover, Fusion requires a minimal amount of hydrogen. Hydrogen in a cup of water could supply enough energy forever. Contrary to fission (which splits atoms), fusion doesn't produce radioactive waste.
#5 AI Predicts ALL Known Protein Structures: DeepMind & Meta
When artificial intelligence company DeepMind revealed predicted structures for some 220 million proteins this year, the collection included almost every protein from recognized species in DNA databases. Another tech company conducting research on the protein universe, Meta (formerly Facebook, headquartered in California), has used AI to predict the structures of around 600 million proteins from bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that haven’t been specified. The scientists created the predictions by utilizing a ‘large language model,’ a type of AI that can anticipate text from just a few letters or words.
The AlphaFold2 software from DeepMind is used by scientific teams worldwide to study COVID-19, cancer, and antibiotic resistance. Moreover, An accessible database for protein structures analyzed by AlphaFold2 has also been created by DeepMind. One million records exist today in this database, and according to DeepMind, over one billion will be available in the following year. Meta AI’s database, the ESM Metagenomic Atlas, will enable experts to quickly achieve protein structures by utilizing an API.
#6 100% Remission of Early-Stage Rectal Cancer in All Patients
June 6, 2022 – In a limited clinical experiment with 12 rectal cancer patients, 100% of the participants experienced remission. Over the course of six months, all patients received dostarlimab, a monoclonal antibody, every three weeks. On MRI scans, PET scans, biopsies, endoscopic testing, and physical examinations during follow-up, the cancer had vanished. The research was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting and was sponsored by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. The authors of the study noted the following surprises: None of the patients required additional therapies for their rectal cancer, including potentially life-altering surgery or chemotherapy, and none experienced clinically significant problems.
This research is significant for two reasons: First, younger people are now developing cancer at a higher rate. With immune memory limiting further cancer growth, it's possible that in the future, people with rectal cancer won't require surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Second, this discovery may pave the way for additional breakthroughs in cancer treatments and the application of checkpoint inhibitors to other types of malignant tumors. It's a significant victory in the fight against cancer.
#7 Synthesizing Life Without Sperm or Eggs
After ten years of research, scientists developed a synthetic mouse embryo that started forming organs without sperm or egg. The scientists were able to create it with only stem cells. The embryos created by the scientists at Rehovot’s Weizmann Institute of Science are “synthetic” because their creation didn’t require an egg or sperm or even a mouse’s uterus. The mouse stem cells - cells that can develop into any organ or tissue - were grown in an artificial womb for eight days. They formed a primitive brain, an intestinal tract, and a heart.
By observing the embryos in a laboratory rather than a uterus, scientists can better understand how some pregnancies might fail and how to stop this from occurring. This also marks a significant leap forward in our ability to increase the available organ supply for transplant. Perhaps this will even open the way for new treatment approaches in diseases like cancer.
#8 FDA Approved Lab-Grown Meat
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the consumption of lab-grown meat. The FDA's approval brings the United States closer to seeing food made from cultivated animal cells on supermarket shelves, even though lab-grown meat is not yet available, and it is unknown when it will be. The EPA examined chicken created in cultured animal cells from California-based Upside Foods in California and found "no further concerns" regarding the safety of the lab-grown meat.
Chickens make up 70 of the 80 billion animals bred and butchered yearly for human consumption. In the past 100 years, the total number of chicken meat per person has quadrupled. Several issues relating to conventional livestock farming, such as wildlife conservation, ecological sustainability, and food production, may be resolved by lab-grown meat.
#9 Perennial Rice (PR23) Enables Food Abundance Revolution
A new kind of perennial rice known as PR23 was developed by scientists at Yunnan University in China, and they reported their results in the journal Nature Sustainability. Regular rice must be cultivated every season, whereas PR23 can provide eight harvests in a row over the course of 4 years. The Yunnan University researchers demonstrated that PR23 produced the same grain quantity with 60% fewer farm labor and 50% lower production costs. The preliminary findings imply that PR23 might also improve the environment.
For 4 billion people worldwide, rice is a reliable food source and the most popular grain. However, the annual harvesting of rice is an expensive and labor-intensive procedure that further perpetuates environmental issues like soil erosion. Increasing numbers of farmers in Asia have started growing PR23 due to assistance from Yunnan University. In reality, this past year saw the planting of more than 15,000 hectares in southern China, a 4-fold increase from 2020. Africa is also testing PR23 and related variants. If scientists can leverage their results to develop perennial substitutes for other important crops like corn and wheat, PR23 can revolutionize the rice production process and the whole agricultural sector.
#10 Tesla’s Humanoid Robot (Optimus) Revealed
Tesla introduced Optimus, a humanoid robot that measures around 5 feet 8 inches tall and has an AI processor in its head. Optimus' original model has a lifting capacity of 150 pounds, a carrying capacity of 45 pounds, and a speed of 5 miles per hour. Future iterations of Optimus will also be able to walk up slopes, handle equipment like a drill or wrench, and walk upstairs.
Elon Musk plans to manufacture millions of them in large quantities and sell them for less than $20,000 apiece. If Tesla successfully achieves its goal of mass-producing Optimus humanoid robots, the business will fundamentally alter the economy and society. Robots could complete monotonous, risky, repetitious chores, freeing humans to operate in safer, more productive environments. This foresees a world without poverty, where you can obtain any goods and services you desire. It truly represents a fundamental shift in humanity as we know it.
#11 EVTOLs (Flying Cars)
If you've ever imagined driving a flying car over busy streets, your dream might come true sooner than you think. Not with a flying automobile, but rather with an eVTOL—electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle—a battery-powered aircraft. Numerous businesses are investing billions of dollars in creating eVTOLs that will function like air taxis, taking off and landing from what are known as vertiports on the tops of buildings, parking garages, or helipads in crowded areas, as we first reported in April. EVTOLs can potentially change the way we live and work by offering quicker, better, and cleaner means of transportation.
This decade will see the full effective implementation of aerial transportation with eVTOLs in the world's major cities. By 2030, the market for eVTOL aircraft in urban air utilities could be worth close to $30 billion. As eVTOL networks reduce travel time and distance, our places of residence and employment will change. Geographic regions that were previously inaccessible will now be reachable. Through eVTOL aircraft, people looking for seclusion in the countryside can also access the dining, shopping, and entertainment options found in large urban areas.
#12 Quantum Computing Quantum Bit Lifetimes Extended by 500%
In 2022, quantum technology researchers made several significant breakthroughs. Researchers from MIT and the University of Chicago discovered that making the surrounding crystal's structure less symmetric could increase quantum bit lifespan by a factor of 5. Similar to this, researchers at Arizona State University and Zhejiang University in China showed that a technique known as quantum many-body scarring might be used to configure a huge number of quantum bits to communicate with one another while retaining coherence (QMBS). This addresses one of the most significant concerns in the quantum information field.
Longer coherence durations in quantum computing create more valuable quantum bits in numerous applications, ranging from long-distance communication to healthcare. What new technologies will emerge if quantum computing develops and takes off is still unknown. However, it is going to be quite intriguing.
#13 IBM Unveils Largest Quantum Computer to Date
IBM released its most robust quantum processor so far, known as Osprey, a 433-qubit device. In comparison to IBM's 127-qubit Eagle processor, Osprey is three times bigger. Beyond the capacity of any conventional computer, the new processor can carry out challenging quantum calculations. According to IBM, the amount of classical bits required to encode a state on the IBM Osprey processor is significantly greater than the number of atoms in the entire known universe.
The quantum computer's number of qubits is a good indicator of its performance. We can tackle identified challenges using new methods and perhaps start addressing previous challenges as quantum computers get more robust.
#14 Synthetic Data Revolution Accelerating AI Training
Data is the essence of any AI system. But obtaining high-quality, hard data can be difficult, costly, time-consuming, and biased. Questions about ethics and privacy are also raised. For instance, according to estimates from the research firm Gartner, up to 85% of AI initiatives will produce inaccurate results because of bias in the data, algorithms, or staff running the projects. Synthetic data, which simulates actual observations and is employed to train AI and machine learning algorithms, fills this gap.
Researches indicates that synthetic data isn’t only less costly and more accessible and may also be more authentic. For instance, experts at MIT, IBM Watson, and Boston University created a synthetic dataset of 150,000 videos that detected a range of human activities and utilized it for training a set of machine learning models. They discovered that for videos with limited background objects, the synthetically trained models achieved even better than those trained on actual data.
Synthetic data has the potential to further revolutionize artificial intelligence. For instance, the existing AI frameworks require data labeling, which is a huge sector with corporations paying millions of dollars on data labeling solutions annually.
#15 OpenAI's ChatGPT
ChatGPT is a conversational chatbot Developed by OpenAI that uses the recently released GPT 3.5 language model. ChatGPT has been utilized to answer coding questions, operate a virtual Linux system, create song lyrics, and even quote Shakespeare. ChatGPT works by receiving input and then generating code or text. Even fiction writers are now using ChatGPT to aid them in their creations.
One of the tools that are pushing AI into the mainstream is ChatGPT. On November 30, OpenAI published it; by December 5, more than a million users had utilized it. There will be two types of businesses by the end of this decade: those entirely exploiting AI and those out of business.
#16 Generative-AI (DALL-E 2, Stable Diffusion)
Multiple generative AI tools were made available in 2022, which was a massive advancement in the interaction between AI and people. The utilization of OpenAI's image-generation platform DALL-E 2, which was released to the public early this year, is one of the most notable examples. A sophisticated machine learning algorithm DALL-E 2 was created to comprehend natural language and translate it into a picture. Everyone can now access it for free, and it generates amazingly accurate depictions of practically any description conceivable.
Over 2 million artistic images are produced daily by approximately 1.5 million users worldwide of the text-to-image platform. Several businesses, such as Microsoft and Shutterstock, have partnered with OpenAI, further boosting the platform's popularity and impact. Another notable AI-based text-to-image application with more than 10 million users is Stable Diffusion (by Stability AI). Additionally, apps like Lightricks and TikTok have created their own AI-powered image generators.
People are using generative AI tools to reinvent digital artwork and alter the domains of art and design. These technologies help creative people perform more productively and effectively and develop fresh ideas. For instance, The New York Times recently spoke with several creative industry experts on how they work with AI to produce more original ideas. One Australian director, who has contributed to popular television programs like "Westworld," is now employing AI-generated art in his proposals to film studios.
Technological progress can be advantageous to society. New medicines and treatments are being developed; there are more efficient and eco-friendly methods of producing products; developments are enhancing education; the web is a new world full of information, and we have access to essential things at the click of a button. Technology has become a vital part of humanity's survival. There is so much innovation enveloping technology, making a world we couldn't have envisioned a few decades ago.